Returning home last month, I wondered how we’d managed to leave the porch door open before we left for work. But we hadn’t left the door open. Someone had smashed two panes of glass and gone inside, stealing three laptops and a camera. In rooting around for other loot, they overturned our bedroom drawers, leaving everything in a muddle. I found our marriage certificate on the floor, lying there like a piece of trash.
Of course we felt violated, which is how burglary victims often describe what it’s like to go through this. “My house felt dirty after that,” a friend said of her burglary some years ago. She wasn’t talking about the rooms being literally soiled, although there can be a good bit of that, too. What she meant was the knowledge that a stranger has been in the most intimate spaces of your home, pawing your possessions. It’s a kind of defilement you don’t easily shake.
To get in, the thief — or thieves — took a brick from our flower bed and pitched it through our French doors. It skidded across the rug, leaving a muddy trail across the place where we’d gathered for Christmas just a few weeks ago. Shattered glass was everywhere. In rooting around for something to break the windows, whoever did this also knocked over a huge terra cotta pot planted with herbs. It was a lovely big thing we’d splurged on as a Mother’s Day gift to my wife. The pot split in two, ruining everything inside it. We’ll replace it, but the sight of a new pot where the old one once was will be a reminder of the violence visited on us.
Thieves take away more than your things, it turns out. They also rob you of your sense of well-being. Our kids are older now and live away from us, but they took the burglary hard, too. The home where they had grown up and found a sense of serenity and security had been assaulted.
The burglary will cost us money, since insurance won’t cover everything, and it’s cost us a lot of time, too. Dealing with police, paperwork, replacing lost items and beefing up home security has taken us away from many other things we either needed or wanted to do.
What the criminals couldn’t claim was my faith in where I live. For more than two decades, we’ve been in a nice neighborhood where crime is rare, though no one anywhere is immune from thieves. Burglars like nice neighborhoods because there’s good stuff to steal.
Stealing also takes something from thieves, I think — the enormous satisfaction of getting something by earning it. It’s a bigger thrill, in the long run, than just taking something that doesn’t belong to you.
So many people helped us and comforted us after our burglary. Those are gifts even the best thief can’t take away from us.